Return to Table of
First S.P.R. Report on H.P.B.
The weak point of the evidence in the following case appears to us to lie
in the absence of any proof of the identity of the paper on which the picture appeared
with the blank sheet originally taken, since no special precautions to secure this are
recorded. Apart from this, the case has some interest, since it is not easy to
procure a drawing of so much value as, according to Mr. Donovan and Mr. LeClear, this must
possess. The evidence, however, does not tell us whether the portrait produced was
that of the person whose likeness was asked for.
From Hints on Esoteric Theosophy, No. 1, pp. 83-86.
The following are extracts from some of the papers, referring to this remarkable
picture. --- H.X.
City and County of New York, ss.
William Q. Judge, being duly sworn, says that he is an attorney and
counsellor-at-law, practising at the Bar of the State of New York; that he was present at
the house of Madame H. P. Blavatsky, at No. 302, West 47th Street, New York City, on one
occasion in the month of December, 1877, when a discussion was being held upon the subject
of Eastern Magic, especially upon the power of an Adept to produce phenomena by an
exercise of the will, equally or surpassing those of mediumship. To illustrate the
subject, as she had often done in deponents presence previously by other
experiments, Madame Blavatsky, without preparation, and in full light, and in the presence
and sight of deponent, Colonel Olcott, and Dr. L. M. Marquette, tore a sheet of common
writing paper in two, and asked us the subject we would have represented. Deponent
named the portrait of a certain very holy man in India. Thereupon laying the paper
upon the table Madame Blavatsky placed the palm of her hand upon it, and after rubbing the
paper a few times (occupying less than a minute) with a circular motion, lifted her hand
and gave deponent the paper for inspection. Upon the previously white surface there
was a most remarkable and striking picture of an Indian Fakir, representing him as if in
contemplation. Deponent has frequently seen it since, and it is now in possession of
Colonel Olcott. Deponent positively avers that the blank paper first taken was the
paper on which the picture appeared, and that no substitution of another paper was made or
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 20th day of March, 1878.
SAMUEL V. SPEYER, Notary Public, New
State of New York, City and County of New York, ss.
I, Henry A. Gumbleton, Clerk of the City and County of New York, and also Clerk
of the Supreme Court for the said City and County, being a Court of Record, do hereby
certify that Samuel V. Speyer, before whom the annexed deposition was taken, was at the
time of taking the same a Notary Public of New York, dwelling in said City and County,
duly appointed and sworn and authorised to administer oaths to be used in any Court in
said State, and for general purposes; and that his signature thereto is genuine, as I
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and affixed the seal of the
said Court and County the 20th day of March, 1878.
HENRY R. GUMBLETON,
The undersigned, a practising physician, residing at No. 224, Spring Street, in
the City of New York, having read the foregoing affidavit of Mr. Judge, certifies that it
is a correct statement of the facts. The portrait was produced, as described, in
full light, and without there being any opportunity for fraud. Moreover, the
undersigned wishes to say that other examples of Madame Blavatskys power to
instantly render objective the images in her mind, have been given in the presence of many
witnesses, including the undersigned; and that, having intimately known that lady since
1873, when she was living with her brother at Paris, the undersigned can and does
unreservedly testify that her moral character is above censure, and that her phenomena
have been invariably produced in defiance of the conditions of mediumship, with which the
undersigned is very familiar.
L. M. MARQUETTE, M.D.
So much for the circumstances attending the production of the portrait;
now let us see what are its artistic merits. The witnesses are well qualified, Mr.
ODonovan being one of the best known of American sculptors, and, as alleged, an
experienced art critic, and Mr. LeClear occupying a place second to none as a portrait
TO THE EDITOROF
Sir, --- For the benefit of those among your readers who may be able to gather
the significance of it, I beg to offer some testimony concerning a remarkable performance
claimed by Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky to have been done by herself without the
aid of such physical means as are employed by persons usually for such an end. The
production referred to is a small portrait in black and white of a Hindu Fakir, which was
produced by Madame Blavatsky, as it is claimed, by a simple exercise of will power.
As to the means by which this work was produced, however, I have nothing at all to do, and
wish simply to say as an artist, and give also the testimony of Mr. Thomas LeClear, one of
the most eminent of our portrait painters, whose experience as such has extended over 50
years --- that the work is of a kind that could not have been done by any living artist
known to either of us. It has all the essential qualities which distinguish the
portraits by Titian, Masaccio, and Raphael, namely, individuality of the profoundest kind,
and consequently breadth and unity of as perfect a quality as I can conceive. I may
safely assert that there is no artist who has given intelligent attention to portraiture,
who would not concur with Mr. LeClear and myself in the opinion which we have formed of
this remarkable work; and if it was done as it is claimed to have been done, I am at utter
loss to account for it. I may add that this drawing, or whatever it may be termed,
has at first sight the appearance of having been done by washes of Indian ink, but that
upon closer inspection, both Mr. LeClear and myself have been unable to liken it to any
process of drawing known to us; the black tints seem to be an integral part of the paper
upon which it is done. I have seen numbers of drawings claimed to have been done by
spirit influences, in which the vehicle employed was perfectly obvious, and none of them
were of more than mediocre artistic merit; not one of them, certainly, could be compared
at all with this most remarkable performance of which I write.
WM. R. O'DONOVAN.
Studio Building, 51, West 10th Street,
TO THE PRESIDENT
OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
Dear Sir, - My experience has not made me at all familiar with magic, but I have
seen much of what is termed spiritualistic phenomena. Among the latter so-called
spirit drawings, which were thought by the mediums and their friends very fine, but the
best of which I found wanting in every element of art.
I do not wish to be censorious, but an experience of 50 years in
portrait-painting has perhaps made me exacting, when it is a question of paintings alleged
to come from a supernatural source. This much by way of preface to the subject of my
I have seen in your possession a portrait in black and white of an Indian
religious ascetic, which is entirely unique. It would require an artist of very
extraordinary power to reach the degree of ability which is expressed in this work.
There is a oneness of treatment difficult to attain, with a pronounced individuality,
combined with great breadth. As a whole, it is an individual. It has
the appearance of having been done on the moment --- a result inseparable from great
art. I cannot discover with what material it is laid on the paper. I first
thought it chalk, then pencil, then Indian ink; but a minute inspection leaves me quite
unable to decide. Certainly it is neither of the above.
If, as you tell me, it was done instantaneously by Madame Blavatsky, then all I
can say is, she must possess artistic powers not to be accounted for on any hypothesis
except that of magic. The tint seems not to be laid on the surface of the common
writing paper upon which the portrait is made, but to be combined, as if it were, with the
fibres themselves. No human being, however much genius he might have, could produce
the work, except with much time and painstaking labour; and, if my observation goes for
anything, no medium has ever produced anything worthy of being mentioned beside it.
Studio Building, 31, West 10th Street, New